Stefani's most-fantastical-reads book montage

Crooked Kingdom
Six of Crows
Yellow Brick War
The Wicked Will Rise
Charm & Strange
Their Fractured Light
These Broken Stars
Big Little Lies
I'll Be There
Red Queen

Stefani's favorite books »

Friday, April 3, 2020

That what friends are(n't) for...

I have wrestled for months with this post. I have started it, deleted it, restarted it, given up on it, and started it again. I felt like I didn’t have a right to share it for a multitude of reasons – to preserve relationships, to keep from rocking the boat, among others. But, after some serious reflection (and billable therapist hours), I’ve come to the conclusion that this, just like every other major event that I’ve written about, will not be over until I have been able to get it out and get it over with. My mental health is suffering, and I think that holding in some of the betrayals that have wounded me and fundamentally changed me is unhealthy.  In order to move past it, I first must dissect it, examine it, and then, hopefully, find closure.

This is my story. I can promise you that if you were to read something written by either of my two ex-best friends, I’d be the villain in their story. That’s fine. I don’t care. I understand that and I am not in any way claiming to be without fault. I’m going to tell you how things unfolded for me. If you want their story, you can ask them.

We will call the first friend, Friend A. Friend A and I met a few years back through our church. It became apparent very quickly that we had much in common and we bonded almost instantly. Our husbands became friends. We spent almost every free weekend with them, and I spent hours sending video chats to her when we couldn’t hang out in person. My kids called her Auntie. She was the kind of friend that I could share anything with without fear of judgment. She was a theology major and a youth pastor and I looked up to her for help understanding the parts of the church and the Bible that were troubling for me. We ended up forming our own small group so that we could foster faith in a way that we felt was less hypocritical than the organized church. We brought in new people and learned so much from them, which was life-changing for me. Those conversations helped me start to walk down the path that eventually led me to atheism. If I got nothing out of that friendship except for the gentle nudge down this path, then even the pain of losing the friendship is worth it because I found my way out of religion. She was supposed to be my forever friend. We got matching tattoos. We talked about living on the same property someday. She was my emergency contact. We lovingly joked about being “friend-married.” During the early years of our friendship, Friend A and her husband experienced some serious hardships. They dealt with infertility and miscarriages and the pain that comes along with that. Her husband had a tragic accident his second day on a new job and ended up out of work for months and with thousands and thousands of dollars in medical bills. Friend A lost her job. She was incredibly depressed. We did everything that we could think of to help them. I drove her to medical appointments, we loaned them money, my husband got her husband more than one job. We did everything we could to try and help them when they needed us. But Friend A also had some personality traits that made socializing challenging sometimes. She was very clingy and insecure. She was jealous of other friendships that I had and her jealousy drove a huge wedge between Friend B and myself (more on that later). We would try and hang out with other couples and her social anxiety at sharing me as a friend would cause her to alienate everyone else in the room. Our other friends and some family would express concern about social gatherings and whether or not she would be there because she tended to make people uncomfortable. As things moved on after they finally had their perfect baby (not sarcasm, the boy is pretty great) and her husband got the job he wanted, life improved for them. The last few months of our relationship were really hard. She was constantly telling me all the ways that I let her down. She would tell me that I wasn't attentive enough or I didn't respond soon enough to something she said or something else and it got old. My husband was tired of hearing me stress about how much of a disappointment I was to her and watching me obsess over how to make it right. He saw how much time and energy I put into that friendship and he saw how I put it above everything, even my marriage a lot of the time. Eventually, things moved from wanting to hang out with her every free moment to looking for excuses to avoid our standing weekly date. The beginning of the end came in the fall. She and her husband had purchased a new home and were getting ready to move. Their closing date ended up getting moved back to the same weekend my husband was having his vasectomy. I had promised to help her move or at the very least to help her clean but my husband was miserable the entire weekend and she was pissed that I wouldn't leave my kids with him for a few hours to come help. Then, the Monday after his vasectomy he threw out his back and ended up spending the week in and out of the ER before being taken by ambulance for emergency back surgery in Seattle. This was traumatizing for me. My husband has never even really been sick let alone been hospitalized and unable to help himself. I thought that since she had been through the devastation of her husband's knee injury that she would be the person who showed up for me. I figured she would know what it's like to sit in fear waiting for a surgeon. I figured she'd give me extra grace considering I have two kids that I was raising while also trying to care for my injured husband. The end of it all came when she informed me how pissed off she was that I had missed her 30th birthday, which happened to be the day after my husband's surgery. We had barely gotten home from the hospital that afternoon and hadn't slept in a week. She was holding a grudge because I missed her party. I had really hoped that I was wrong but I got a very long detailed text message explaining that I was a shitty friend and that she was incredibly disappointed in me for missing such a special event in her life. She didn't check up on us after surgery, didn't offer anything, didn't check in to see how I was holding up… nothing. Seeing as I had enough shit on my plate, I told her I was done. If it had just been that one time, I wouldn’t have walked away. But that friendship that had been so lifegiving in the beginning had turned into something that was hurting me and my family.

Friend B. I'm not even sure where to start. Friend B and I have been friends since our girls were six months old. We have done life together in almost every sense of the word for the last 10 years. She has been my confidant and my partner in crime. She watched my son while I was still working and she was the one who was buying me groceries and picking up prescriptions so I could pack a bag and race over to the hospital to be my husband before his surgery. I never even contemplated a world where she and I weren't friends. Our girls are the same age, our boys are less than a year apart. Her husband works for mine. I don't even know how to sum up our friendship into something short enough that I won't lose you as a reader but long enough to do justice to the depth and breadth of our friendship. After Derek’s surgery, I was in a bad spot, especially in the wake of losing Friend A. A few weeks after returning from Seattle, Friend B came over and I confided some very sensitive information and asked her not to share it with her husband or anyone else. She chose to share it with her husband who then felt compelled to share with mine, as they are close friends. It led to an astronomical blowup in my marriage and my life in general. I was devastated when I learned of this betrayal especially because I had specifically asked her if she could handle keeping something to herself. Apparently, she couldn't. I was furious. I don't know that there is a stronger word to explain the emotions that I experienced the day all this shit came out. She told me she knew that I was upset but that she felt like she had done the right thing and that when I was done being angry she would be there ready to pick up and continue where we left off. That didn't end up being the case. After some heated text exchanges, we made the decision to meet in person for coffee. We talked, or more so I talked, and she listened as she did not have a whole lot to say to me. She talked about how my friendship with Friend A had hurt her for so many years and I apologized for putting that other friendship ahead of ours. I thought we were talking to smooth things over and move forward. I was ready to put behind me the fact that she had betrayed my trust. We hugged in the parking lot and she invited us to her brother's going away party the next day. I thought that we were on the right path after that meeting. But I was wrong. The next weekend, or the one after, I can't remember which, was her youngest's birthday party which we have always been invited to. We weren't invited and we weren't given any reason why. After that, she unfriended me on social media and has been absent since. This second one is the one that hurts the most. I never really knew what it meant to be ghosted by someone. I do now.

These aren't relationships that are ever going to be healed. The only healing that I'm going to get is in finally speaking what has been roiling around in my gut for months. It wasn't until I wrote about coming out as an atheist that I finally felt like I understood who I was and what I did (and did not) believe. It gave me the confidence to speak my truth. I understand now what I do and do not want in my life. I miss having friends, please don't get me wrong there, especially in this world that we're living in with quarantines and lockdowns. I'd love to have a mom friend to confide in about how fucking hard things have been. Luckily, I married the most patient and forgiving man on the planet and he has sat with me and loved me through all of this. Obviously, I can talk to him about these things but there's just something about having a girlfriend that's different. I think that if I seek out adult friendships after this, they will look very different. I don't think I'll ever trust someone the way that I trusted these two women. I'm grateful for those relationships even though they ended in an incredibly painful way. Friend B was there for me when my dad died, and I can't think of a time when I needed people more than that. Friend A was my sounding board and the person that I knew would understand anything that I was feeling without judgment. I miss those elements of friendship, but I will never bear my soul in its entirety to another human again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Trigger Warning – this is a very atheist post.

My dad is not in heaven.

I know that may seem like an awful thing to say, but since I don’t believe in heaven, it follows that I can’t believe that he is there.

Yesterday was a beautiful (EARLY) spring day. The sky was that robin’s egg blue that only spring seems to produce. There among the clouds, a bald eagle was soaring above the river, riding the breeze, probably looking for dinner. Almost immediately I smiled and whispered, “Hi Dad.”
Growing up I was fortunate to have a summer home on an island in Puget Sound. When I was little, seeing bald eagles was a rare occurrence. They were endangered and the island was one of the places they tended to nest. We had a giant evergreen tree in the front yard that looked over the cliff and down to the water. Eagles would come to perch on that tree to hunt. My dad loved these creatures. Every time one would land nearby, we would go out with binoculars ready to see these enormous birds. Since his death, every time I see an eagle, I think of him.  

In that moment yesterday, I saw my dad. He wasn’t a person or a ghost or some apparition. He was a bald eagle. But he was also the trees starting to bud around me. He was the river running alongside the road. He was the warm sunlight coming through my window. He is everywhere and in everything and that is so much more comforting to me than thinking that he is in some far-off place, floating in the clouds, completely inaccessible.

When I was a Christian, I was living my life for what I believed came next. I believed that I would have more time with the people I loved. I believed that somehow when my work was done here, I would show up in heaven and bounce around on the clouds with my family and friends. (There is sarcasm here… but also truth). This belief in “next” has historically helped me push away the guilt of working too much or doing housework and yard work instead of people-work because I knew I’d have all the time of eternity to do the people-work. Now, I believe that this is it – that we don’t get an Act II or an afterparty. We are here for a blink of an eye on the cosmic scale. This one short lifetime is all I have with the people I love. We are each here by a 1 in 400 trillion chance. Our lives are fragile and short. But THAT is what makes it so beautiful. It is rare.

Atheism has shown me just how beautiful this universe is and how fucking lucky any one of us is to be alive.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Coming Out

{Before I begin this post I want to say that I am not at all equating what I am learning about "coming out" as an atheist to the experience of coming out as gay to one's family or friend group. I just don't know how else to try and describe it. Forgive me if I fuck it up.}

I didn't want this.

I didn't choose it.

I didn't sit down one day, a few years back, and think to myself, "You know what, self? I'd like to find a way to blow up everything I have ever believed because that way I can strain or break all sorts of important relationships and piss off all the people around me," before setting off down some perceived path toward atheism. This hasn't been an easy process. It has been many things but easy isn't one of them.

It has been scary and really fucking lonely.

But all of that doesn't change what I believe to be true. I'd like to say that if I could, I'd go back and somehow avoid "catching" atheistic beliefs, but I wouldn't. Or that I would take back my previous post and just keep it to myself instead of sharing it. I wouldn't. I shouldn't have to.

It has involved unpacking all sorts of uncomfortable feelings about religion and Jesus and the mounting evidence I kept uncovering against those ideas. It involved separating what I wanted to believe and what I truly, to my core believed. And recently, it involved a lot of personal introspection. My post may have come out of no-where for those reading it, but it has been months in the writing.

Atheism isn't contagious. I sure as fuck don't want to convert you. Your kids won't end up atheist if they play with my kids. I'm still me.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Losing My Religion

Are you okay? Are you questioning your faith? I saw your post and I’m worried about you.

Those are a few of the messages I’ve gotten recently from friends and family alarmed by my recent IG story post about evolution and atheism. I know these questions come from a place of genuine concern and there was no way to adequately answer those questions via a text or IG post. I realize the gravity of what I am saying and trying to respond to those texts made me decide to sit down and write it out. I am doing this for myself as much as for the people who are trying to understand me. This could be a long one…

To really understand how I have moved across the religious spectrum from my parent’s religious beliefs in the Lutheran Church to Presbyterian to Anabaptist to Omnist to Agnostic to Atheist. It is quite a change and the only way the end result makes sense is to go back and start from the very beginning.

A large percent of my childhood memories involve church. I remember Sunday mornings – often involving the smell of McDonald’s Egg McMuffins – in my nicest clothes. I remember sitting in the sanctuary and looking at the details of every stained-glass window, every arched beam, the altar, the pulpit, the fans whirling lazily in circles. I remember learning how to follow along in the complicated hymnals – usually singing songs that I didn’t understand. I remember listening to the pastor drone on and on about passages that didn’t make sense to me. I remember praying prayers and wondering why I always felt like a prayer fraud. If I were to trace my evolution to atheism, this forced, dictated prayer was where my first questions and doubts came from. I can clearly remember the inner dialogue that went on in my head during prayer time. I remember chastising myself for my thoughts wandering or for just going through my wish list (I genuinely believed that that was how God worked because there was always a portion of prayer time where the pastor named all those who were suffering in the congregation. We prayed for health, for employment, for discernment, for the doctors and surgeons. We prayed with the expectation that our God could, and perhaps would see fit to answer those prayers). I remember wondering why I never felt like anyone was really listening to me. I felt like everyone else must be feeling this supernatural connection when they prayed but that if I admitted my doubts or failings that my family would be horrified.

I think that there is an interesting tie-in here with my understanding of my adoption and how that aspect of my life reinforced the desire to “be part of” the only family that I knew. What if they all had a divine connection but because I was adopted, I was not included that divine relationship. I never consciously thought that at the time but looking back at some of my behaviors and beliefs with the eyes of an adult, I see where being adopted, led me to desperately want to please and be included during my youth.

But, back to the topic at hand. After Sunday School ended, my classes for confirmation began somewhere around 6th grade. Once a week I would head upstairs in the church office building into the stuffy room where our pastor taught our confirmation classes. I need to mention here that I was not a fan of our pastor at that time. He was old, grumpy, and reeked of alcohol during classes. I have one very clear memory from those classes. It’s not the bible verses I was required to regurgitate or the beliefs I was told were in my best interest. Because why else would you send a child to such a class? I know that my parents absolutely had my best interests at heart. My memory? What stuck with me all these years? I asked him why the bible didn’t mention dinosaurs. Why, if the bible chronicled everything from the beginning of time, did it never mention these ferocious beasts that would have been terrifying to coexist with. There are all sorts of fantastical tales in the old testament that made the cut, but never once is a giant, man-eating lizard mentioned in these stories. I was taking 6th-grade science at the time and we were studying fossils. I was being presented with physical, scientifically soundproof that dinosaurs existed yet never once in the Bible were they ever really mentioned. Yes, someone will inevitably say that Isaiah 27:1 mentions Leviathan – a gliding serpent, a monster of the sea. That’s it. One tiny sentence mentioning a creature that could easily exist today – a giant crocodile or an anaconda. No mention of giant beasts, or predators, of the land and air.

His response, in front of all my peers: “How dare you to question the Word of God?” He was angry that I had the audacity to try to understand the text I was about to publicly proclaim as Truth. He didn’t even give me the verse from Isaiah. It took until adulthood for me to discover that one. He shut me down. Embarrassed me. Reinforced the already strong notion that asking questions meant I was a doubter (insert audible gasp). I didn’t want to be the only one who didn’t get “in”… who didn’t graduate. So, I stuffed my questions and learned my lesson. It wasn’t about understanding it was only about believing blindly. This was around the time I was pulling back from church. Trying week after week to get out of going and, finally, when I was 14 or 15, I left for good. Shortly after, I went into quite a tailspin of shitty behavior. My whole belief system had taken a hit and I acted out. I won’t go into that, but I went dark for a while. From then until college, I pretty much stayed out of the pews. Every once in awhile, we went to a Christmas Eve service genuinely because I believed not going was some sort of smite toward God. Easter was pretty much the same. I attended one church in college, but it was super cult-like and after a few awkward encounters I quit going.

I didn’t return to church regularly until I was pregnant with Addison. We went through hell trying to get pregnant and then, to top it off, my pregnancy was miserable. I felt strongly that our kids needed a church upbringing like I had. How ironic is that? I felt like my kids needed the same uncomfortable, confusing experience that I dreaded every week as a kid. Hindsight… Anyway. I spent half my pregnancy in bed, so church wasn’t really happening. Then, with a newborn, church just wasn’t feasible. I know I attended the Presbyterian church in town sporadically for a while, but I can’t remember exactly when I really returned and started interacting more with the people there. I volunteered in the middle school youth group. I went through the classes and the process of becoming a church member. My babies were baptized there. I fell into a small group that led to a friendship that was instrumental in me really starting to look at my faith and do the work to understand it. She met with me regularly and guided me through some really difficult life situations. She was the first person who every actively encouraged me to ask the tough questions and then to dig into scripture to find the answers. We talked about dinosaurs and gaps in scripture and how we had to understand the context of the stories in the bible to understand the meaning of verses. I attended a small group for the first time in my life. I had never heard people discuss Jesus as I did in that group. It made me want to understand. I was curious. I started reading scripture. Then, when my dad died – I dove in even further. I was desperate to answer questions I had about mortality and the idea of heaven. I wanted to know that my dad was okay. I wanted to know that I would see him again. I needed that. I made friends in the church. These friends were people that I looked up to. People who I felt were “further along the path” than I was. We had deep conversations about what it meant to follow Jesus. Then, there was a big shake-up in the church administration and things slowly dissolved. One of the interim pastors left and his replacement was a joke. Friends that worked in the church started to leave and I left with them. That church went in a direction that we didn’t agree with.

The time between when I last went to a service at the Presbyterian church and when some friends and I started meeting semi-regularly is kind of nebulous. I know it started around the time of the 2016 election.

Just to be controversial, I would honestly attribute this radical shift in my belief system to the election of Donald Trump.

Yah. I know. I am going to do my best to leave politics out of this post because that is a WHOLE other topic with its own set of bunny trails. I’m going to try to avoid those trails as best I can.

So how did Donald Trump make me an atheist?

Right around the time of the election, some friends that I had made in the church and I started our own “tiny church”. We fell into an online sermon from a church in Canada that we really resonated with. The Meeting House was our primary source of sermons and questions that we discussed in our group. We started grappling with societal issues – privilege, racism, feminism among them. The Meeting House is an Anabaptist Church. Anabaptists are on the same branch of Christianity as Quakers and Mennonites. In a nutshell, Anabaptists focus on the written words of Jesus and the message that he was trying to send. It spends far less time rooting around in Old Testament texts. The lead pastor, Bruxy, is an excellent speaker. His teachings were so accessible and so relatable that I really looked forward to church in a way that I never had in organized (what we called capital “C” Church) church. The members of our small group were intelligent, intellectual, educated humans. It was the perfect version of church for me for a season. As we moved through the sermons, we also followed politics with a wary eye. We talked about trends we were seeing in society and in the people, we thought we knew so well. I started reading about white privilege. I started listening to podcasts about racism. I started paying attention to what people were saying. This same time period is also when I taught 7th grade Ancient Civilizations. I’m a nerd by trade. I wanted to know everything about everything. Buddhism fascinated me. The overlap between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity ran deeper than I had ever learned in church. We spent a month each spring diving into each of the eight major world religions. Each year that I taught the class we dove a little deeper. I found new materials, videos, and sources. It was amazing. One of the biggest takeaways from teaching that class was my understanding that all of the world religions were trying to do the exact same questions. Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens next? Each religion shares the same basic beliefs. God is love.

As I taught about the major world religions, I started re-evaluating my own beliefs. One of the first concepts that grabbed me was the overlap of creation stories that the Bible shares with world religions around the globe. Early people had questions too, but they lacked the science and knowledge to understand the answers. They couldn’t comprehend the cause of thunder and lightning, so they attributed the storms to the gods. As we look back at natural disasters and natural phenomena throughout history, almost every early polytheistic religion attributed a different god to each natural event. As humans learned more about the world and our place in it, some of these previously unexplained events suddenly had a logical, and more importantly, scientifically-backed, explanation. When we study the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans we see polytheistic religions with gods for everything from fertility to war to famine. We look back on these ancient civilizations and shake our heads that they could believe something so silly. Of course, there isn’t a god for famine, there is just GOD. Silly Egyptians. But stop for a second and try to think objectively about some of the Jesus stories in the bible. I fully believe that future humans will look back at modern religions the same way we look at the Romans and Greeks. Silly Christians believing that the world was made in 6 days or that Adam and Eve actually existed (fun fact: they didn’t. Genesis is a creation myth. Just like every other early religion, Christianity has a farfetched story about how the world and everything in it came to be. I’m not going to go into all the ways that science and history have disproved the reliability of the bible, I’d recommend listening to one of Richard Dawkins books for an intro to that. He’s far more articulate and educated than I and he will do a better job explaining it. But the historical inaccuracies are huge. King David is NEVER mentioned outside of the bible. The whole lineage of Jesus is based on Joseph’s link to King David (which make no sense, since Joseph allegedly wasn’t Jesus’s father). But if King David didn’t exist, then Jesus doesn’t fulfill the Old Testament prophecies. The plagues of Egypt aren’t mentioned anywhere in Egyptian history – especially the death of the firstborns. If there was an event where every firstborn son in Egypt died in one night, it would have been recorded SOMEWHERE. But it’s not. Add to that, the bible wasn’t written until hundreds of years after Jesus’s life. That means for hundreds of years, these stories were passed down orally. Anyone who played the game “telephone” at a slumber party knows what happens when stories are told and retold. The end product is very rarely an accurate representation of what the original story was. I’m going to stop there but honesty, Richard Dawkins is a great source if you want to learn more about the inconsistencies that Christians never question. I honestly used to believe that Adam and Eve were real people for a long time. They most definitely weren’t. If they didn’t exist, then original sin can’t exist because Eve wasn’t there to ruin it for everyone. Once you start looking at it objectively, Christianity just doesn’t make sense.

Back to Tiny Church and anabaptist beliefs… Doing the work through The Meeting House of looking at the words of Jesus led to a lot of discussions about pacifism and pacifist beliefs. At the start of this discussion, I was definitely on the “defend my turf” bandwagon. Someone hurts you, you hurt them bigger and badder (intentionally poor grammar). When you look at the words of Jesus, it’s pretty easy to see that he was a pacifist and how he demonstrated pacifist beliefs right up until going to die willingly on the cross. It was a hard sell for me but by the time we had gotten through Bruxy’s sermon series on pacifism, I realized that that was the most basic and simple thing that Jesus asked of us. Love one another. Be kind. Don’t hurt people intentionally. You can’t do those things with a gun in your hand. I’m still working out what pacifism means to me. It is an evolving belief that I’m still getting to know. Pacifism also means seeking peace in your relationships, not just practicing non-violence. I can feel a huge change from how I used to view interpersonal relationships and conflict before to how I view it now. I used to see every interaction as “me versus them”. Every interaction had a winner and a loser and I am highly competitive, so I wanted to be the winner all of the time. It led to arguments in my marriage because I tried to “win” against my husband. When I started looking at maintaining peace, I learned to choose my arguments, to evaluate what I do and don’t want to say, and to swallow my pride when I can. I learned to see my family and friends as on “my team” and not as opponents. It changed how I talked to myself in my own head. It’s one of the changes that I’m most grateful for because it has helped me navigate Addison’s blow-ups. I’m imperfect though – I still lose my temper and say things I don’t mean. But pacifism forces me to get real and apologize. It’s pretty humbling to have to apologize to your 10-year-old for losing your mind.

Since the 2016 election, my interest and awareness of societal issues and inequalities have steadily increased. We did a lot of work in Tiny Church around recognizing the privilege that we all had as white, middle class, highly educated humans and how that privilege had led us to be complacent in systemic racism. It was hard work, but we wanted to understand how we could use the privilege we had to raise awareness or affect change in some way. We discussed MAGAs and how we couldn’t see any period in American history as “great” by any definition of the word. The “great” periods people talked about weren’t ever really great at all. Slavery? Segregation? War? Corruption? Prohibition? Great Depression? Westward Expansion? None of these periods were great. Some were downright awful. The more we discussed our nations ugly history and how our nation is ugly today, the less proud I was to be “American”.  I saw how I had been trained by society to be blindly allegiant to our flag. To pledge that allegiance before we even understood what that meant. To hang our flags on the front porch and wear red, white, and blue on the 4th of July. To accept our history at the face value of our biased textbooks. To believe that “God blessed America” when America didn’t exist when God was doing the supposed blessing. No thank you. I cringe when I watch interviews with Trump Rally go-ers. I don’t want to be in any way associated with those people. I’m not proud of our nation at any point in history. I don’t recite the pledge of allegiance when I sub. I don’t sing the national anthem or put my hand on my heart. I stand respectively to set a good example. In public, I wouldn’t bother. It just doesn’t matter to me anymore. Being American isn’t relevant just like being Australian isn’t relevant. There is no genetic or biological difference between any race. The color of our skin is simply based on how much sun our ancestors got. More sun means more melanin. More melanin means darker skin. Go team evolution. That’s it. So, I’m a human. That’s it.

Just like the term American, “Christian” has an ugly connotation among non-believers or those of other non-Christian religions. Christians are judgmental. They’re hypocrites. More wars have been fought in the name of Christianity than of any other religion. That’s right, those who follow the Jesus of non-violence have murdered more people in the name of that God than ANY other world religion. That’s gross. But then I started reading articles about white evangelicals who fervently support Trump and turn a blind eye and his repeated, unapologetic transgressions (admitted adultery, 25 allegations of sexual assault, bragging about sexually assaulting women, literally thousands of proven lies to the media, the list goes on and on). To try and tell me that Jesus would be a Trump supporter is like telling me Gandhi was in the MMA. It goes against literally everything he taught. If Christianity is the religion of Trump, then I knew I definitely didn’t want to be a part of that club. I joke that Trump made me an atheist but, in some ways, he did help.
I wanted to understand government and to try to get a better understanding of what the history of our whole nation really was. We know what it was like for the white elites, their stories are the ones that made it into the history books. But what about the experience of immigrants? Orphans? Women? The poor? There is so much that we DON’T know about these groups. So, I started reading. I started listening to podcasts. I followed activists on social media. I watched videos. I did the same with evolution and astrophysics. This process of learning has taken place slowly, and privately for the most part, for the past two years. I have been moving by small degrees across the spectrum from anabaptist, where my beliefs were at at the start of this process, to omnist. From omnist to agnostic. And finally, I think, to tentative atheist. I’d like to believe in God but I think that the likelihood that of all of the thousands of gods who have been worshipped throughout the years, that the Christian God is the “winner”, is pretty low. What I believe now, I think, is just as beautiful as the idea of a benevolent god. I believe in matter. The atoms that make us up are only created when a star explodes. We are literally made of star-stuff (that is also my next tattoo theme). How fucking beautiful is that?? And what else, matter never goes away, it never dies. Parts of me have existed in a million different forms over billions of years. And, parts of me will live on, in different forms, for billions of years more. When I die, I want my ashes sent into space. I want to be in the heavens, not in Heaven. I know that could be upsetting to people who believe in the Christian God. I’m not trying to be offensive – I really do find it beautiful and kind of awe inspiring.  

So why share this? I could have kept quiet and just silently made the transition without those around me really noticing at all. I could just let people maintain the assumption of my Christian beliefs and avoid some potentially upsetting conversations. But then I realized that if I did that, it was only to make the people around me comfortable. The internet has been a blessing in this regard. I have had the chance to talk to so many different people around the world who are atheists and learned that there are so many out there. Remember back to the beginning of this dissertation, my earliest memory of the church involves being chastised for asking questions, for doubting. I was terrified to talk about this with almost all of the humans in my life, save one or two. Anyone who has made the move from religion to non-religion will be able to attest, it is hard to unpack all the dogma and superstition that you inherit as a part of organized religion. It’s hard to navigate holidays like Christmas and Easter. It’s hard to know how to talk to people about it or how to handle it when they get upset. But it’s hard because no one talks about it. So here I am, talking about it. Maybe me writing this will make it easier for someone else to bring to light concerns or questions they have or encourage someone else to read a book on a topic they hadn’t considered before. Maybe it won’t do anything. I don’t know. What I do know, is that for the first time in my life, I think I’m onto the truth.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Coming to terms with reality...

I am parenting a child with special needs.

I have been parenting her for almost ten years and I am just now coming to terms with what that means for her and for our family. (When I say “I” in this post, I’m not implying that I’m doing it alone – I have the greatest partner I could ask for in this journey. This post is simply my side of the experience.)

Addison is the most loving, kind, smart, funny, creative soul I have ever known. She also faces more challenges than most kids her age. She is impulsive and hyper, scattered and disorganized, and her behavior at home and school is a constant challenge. We knew early on that she was an active child – even in utero she rolled and kicked constantly and once she could roll over, she never stopped moving again. She was diagnosed with ADHD at age 3 ½ before starting her first year of preschool. We went through all of the non-medicated options – elimination diet, essential oils, herbal supplements, sticker charts… We. Tried. EVERYTHING. Eventually, we went through the process of starting her on medication, but we had to wait almost nine months before we made it to the top of the waiting list for an appointment. I don’t even know how to quantify the number of conversations with medical professionals that I have had about Addison. She has been diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, disruptive mood disorder, potential early onset bipolar, and a few others that I can’t even remember at this point. We went through medication after medication and side effect after side effect. It wasn’t until she was about 8 that we finally found a combination of meds that seemed to work for her for a while. Unfortunately, we have discovered that while a particular medication may work for a while it can suddenly become ineffective and then we start the process all over again. She is currently taking a long-acting ADHD med with a booster at lunchtime. She takes another mood controller with her morning meds. At night she takes a hefty dose of an antidepressant that helps her sleep and an anxiety med as well. We easily spend $300-$400 each month on her medications because insurance doesn’t cover them fully. She sees a psychiatrist and a counselor as often as we can afford – because again, insurance doesn’t cover it beyond 8 visits, which means she can only be seen twice a month and that sets us back another $350 at least. Unfortunately, meds and money are overwhelming yet pale in comparison to trying to figure out how to be the best parent possible for this beautiful girl.

A typical day in our house starts out with Addison getting up for breakfast and getting her pills right away. On a good day, she gets dressed and ready-ish with constant reminders and guidance. On bad days there are screaming matches, doors slamming, things being thrown or knocked over and when we get out the door we are lucky if she is dressed and has her backpack. I can’t count the number of times we have gotten in the car with her hair a total rat’s nest, teeth unbrushed, lunch left on the counter, and the drive to daycare filled with arguments and crying. On a good day at school, she gets work done and plays with her friends. On a bad day, she is rolling on the floor, hitting or kicking other kids, fidgeting with everything she can get her hands on, out of her seat, distracting others. On the really bad days, I get a call from the office or her teacher. She is in 3rd grade and has received 17 referrals this year. 10 were for minor classroom infractions – out of her seat, talking, etc. The other 7 were for more serious offenses - hitting other students or saying grossly inappropriate things. She has served weeks’ worth of “community service” at school – cleaning up the lunchroom, picking up trash, scrubbing scuff marks off the floor in the hallways. After school, on a good day, she comes home, puts her things away and either goes upstairs to play or heads outside. She gets along with her brother and listens to Derek and I. On bad days, it’s very much like our bad mornings – arguing, lying, stealing, destroying things, saying awful things to me. She has stolen more money from us than we can accurately count, has destroyed countless make-up items of mine, gone through our drawers or my purse to find things she wants. She fights with her brother, argues with us, hoards food, and a whole host of other issues that I can’t even list. On a good night, she takes her meds and gets sleepy right on schedule and she sleeps through the night. On a bad night, she is up all night, getting into the pantry (not anymore, because padlock), hunting down any technology that she can get her hands on, cutting holes in clothes, sheets, and cords, or drawing on furniture, carpet, doors. We very rarely have a day that is “good” all the way through.

Even with all that ^, it never really occurred to me exactly how different our parenting experience has been with Addison compared to with friends who have kids of the similar age and even compared to her brother. It seems like the older she gets the larger the gap is between her and her peers. This makes sense because kids with ADHD are typically 30% developmentally delayed compared to peers their age. This means we technically have two 7-year-olds instead of a seven-year-old and an (almost) ten-year-old. We have always known she was immature, and we have always known that she had ADHD. We have tried everything we could think of – incentives, points, rewards, grounding, yelling, ignoring, taking away toys and electronics, etc. etc. and had zero luck in changing her behavior.
I have the greatest support from friends and family, and I am so thankful for that. I cannot imagine how much harder this experience would have been without them. However, regardless of how much time others spend with my daughter, they don’t see the whole spectrum of behavior that we see day to day, minute to minute. They don’t live in the trenches. They get breaks. We don’t. There has only ever been one other person that I have talked to that I felt really “got” it. She was the parent of one of my sweetest students. At conferences, her parents and I got to talking and discovered that she exhibited a lot of the same behaviors as Addison to the same extent and with the same frequency (as in all the time). It was such a relief to talk to someone who was in the same place as I am/was as a parent. I didn’t know until that point how badly I needed to know others who struggle with parenting a child with ADHD. It seems that the older she gets and the more her disability becomes apparent, the more isolated I feel as a mama.

For a long time (the last six years or so), I thought that I could just parent her the way I knew how to parent and that eventually she would just magically grow and meet my expectations. I absolutely knew that ADHD was impacting our lives and Addison’s education, but I never dug into the research about what ADHD is and what the implications really are for her. Recently I had the opportunity to listen to my therapist explain the ins and outs of ADHD to Derek and I and it was a game changer for me. I have finally come to terms with the fact that my child has an intellectual disability. There is an actual, measurable difference between her brain and the “neuro-typical” brains of most of her peers. There are chemicals that aren’t doing their job and there is a delay in the growth and maturity of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps us analyze consequences, plan, organize, and do all of the things that are required to be successful in school. I have spent the past few weeks digging into texts and websites and podcasts about ADHD and parenting kids with disabilities. If she had been born with a disability that we could SEE, we wouldn’t even question doing the research and the hard work to learn about it, dig into what it really means, and change our lifestyle to meet her needs. But because she was born beautiful and witty with a great vocabulary and for all intents and purposes, seemed “normal” (Ew. I don’t like that word, because none of us are normal but hopefully you understand what I mean) we kept trying to force her to fit OUR lifestyle and OUR needs. She has almost no executive function ability (planning, organizing, anticipating, changing, etc.) and her anxiety causes her to stress out so much that she can’t focus for the rest of the day because her nerves are on edge. There is no way that she CAN meet those needs unless we teach her how. Slowly. One skill at a time.

Right now, we are working on getting ready in the morning by using a checklist. She can’t shower on her own because she gets out of the shower without rinsing her hair. She doesn’t brush her teeth unless we stand behind her and supervise. Her room is a DISASTER every moment of every day. She doesn’t wipe properly and has to be reminded and supervised to wash her hands after using the bathroom. She would walk around with her hair in tangled knots every day if we didn’t coach her on how to brush it.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel inadequate and unprepared for a role that is so much more daunting than I expected as a parent. I’m trying to learn – to educate myself and change some of the ingrained habits and expectations that I didn’t realize I had about what it means to be a mom and what my expectations should really be for my child. The hardest part is that every time I think I have figured something out, something else changes or falls apart and I’m back at square one. This job is harder than anything else I have ever done and is far more important than anything I have ever done. She must be able to go out into the world 9 years from now and thrive – she has to take care of herself and her responsibilities without a constant parental presence. What we do in the next nine years will either help or hurt her as she moves into adulthood. I really, really want to help her. I just need to learn how.

This is the baby girl who made me a mama. She is my miracle after years of being told we wouldn’t be able to have kids. She was the only solace when I lost a baby the year before we had Cohen. I was a mess on the bathroom floor and my two-year-old came and comforted me. She loved on me when I needed it the most. Now I need to love on her when she needs it most. <3 o:p="">

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Maybe this is my midlife crisis...

Maybe this is my midlife crisis.

If you had asked me two months ago what my plan for the future was, I wouldn't have even had to think about it. My future was working in Zillah, doing what I love, watching my kids grow up here, and being a part of the community that I love. This was my home. It was where I intended to put down my roots. I have spent 12 years working in the Zillah School District. I started as a para-pro at the elementary and worked while I put myself through night classes to earn my BA in Education. My dream from the start was to teach English or reading at the middle school in Zillah and that was the first position I was offered when I applied. It was perfect. As I grew to love the quirky middle school age group. I started coaching and eventually took on ASB which led to teaching a leadership class and running a mentoring program. I adored my job. 

Then this year happened. It was by far the most challenging year of my career - by miles. I started the year with a new principal and in the beginning, we got along great. We had similar ideas about student leadership and I thought that it was the beginning of a beautiful thing. It wasn't. In November I left for an NCTE conference in Atlanta. When my plane touched down and my notifications started coming in, I discovered that the guest speaker that I had booked and had approved a year in advance had been canceled without my knowledge or consent. To say that I was furious was an understatement. I had booked someone who would have had an amazing impact on our students. I could have dealt with being told that we had to cut the speaker but I believe strongly that I should have at least been consulted. If I hadn't heard from the company themselves, I wouldn't have even known that anything had happened. When I came home, I had to tell my ASB students that the speaker had been canceled and that instead, a friend of our principal would be speaking. I was angry and so were they. I know that I didn't keep some of my thoughts to myself and I should have but because of the way it was done, I had a lot of trouble with that.

A few weeks later we did our online StuCo survey. It is a routine that we do at the end of each semester to get a feel for what the student body is interested in for upcoming events and what suggestions they have for improving our school and activities. When the results came in and my students brought them to me, I was shocked. A significant number of the responses were related to our principal and they were incredibly negative and cruel. After sharing the results with her, she became convinced that somehow I was turning the students against her. Ironically, I was spending a lot of time trying to stop the negative comments about her - both in my content classes and in leadership. If you've ever worked with middle schoolers, you know how difficult that is. Needless to say, by Christmas break the tension was high. Things didn't get any better after we came back from break. In March I left for my ASB conference in Vancouver. The first day that I was gone was an in-service day for staff. First thing in the morning I started getting texts from coworkers that the topic of the morning was moving leadership to a before school class or an after school club - neither of which would work in our community. Again, I felt like as soon as I was out of the building, my program was on the table without me there to discuss or defend it. When I got back, I was reassured that the leadership program would stay and that things would go on pretty much as before.

Fast forward to May. Things were winding down for the year and I had started working on a presentation for some leadership kids to present at the board meeting at the end of May. We wanted to acknowledge the support that we had to put on new activities throughout the year and show them what we had planned for the coming year. I talked to the kids about presenting at the meeting and told them if they wanted to sign up to do it, we would put it on the agenda. Then we watched our TED talk for the day (if you haven't watched it, you should) about the use of language and the mindset that we have about gender roles. The speaker drops the f-bomb when quoting a player that she interviewed. A parent called the school the next day concerned about the content of the video. In hindsight, I should have sent home a note to parents about it and if it had been one of my ELA or history classes, I absolutely would have. However, in leadership, most of our conversations are about hard topics and I made the mistake of assuming that it was something they all could handle. My principal asked for the link so she could watch the video and then, throughout the rest of the day, students were pulled out of my classes and were interviewed. At the end of the day, some students came to me and confided in me the interviews made them really uncomfortable and that the questions were related to my character and the quality of teacher that they believed I am. I went into the weekend in tears, trying to understand what on earth I had done to make her question my character.

The following week, my union rep and I sat down with my principal and vice principal. She proceeded to tell me that she had interviewed students from my classes and that she believed that I was trying to pit students against her and that I was a poor role model for leadership. She had heard bits and pieces about students presenting to the board and somehow twisted it to believe that we were going to the board to try and get her fired. She could not have been further from the truth. She then told me that she was going to take my leadership program away from me and that I would no longer be the leadership teacher OR the ASB advisor at ZMS. My rep asked her if this was something that I could earn back if the following year went well and I was told, unequivocally, NO. Prior to the meeting, I had asked if I needed a rep, if there was some sort of discipline that I needed to be aware of, and I was told that there was no discipline to be assigned. After she told me that I would no longer be working with student leadership, I said I had been under the impression that no discipline was occurring. She smiled and said that it wasn't. She explained that she could assign or take away supplemental contracts as she saw fit. So I wasn't be disciplined but I was losing everything that I held dear. I lost it. I left school in hysterics. I went to my best friend's house and I bawled until I didn't have any tears left to cry. Then, I started updating my resume and applying for jobs. I knew that if I couldn't teach leadership or do ASB, the things that brought the deepest joy in my job, that I did not want to be a part of ZMS anymore. Leadership and ASB kept me grounded and made it so I could tolerate the bullshit that was thrown my way. I took two days off, updated my resume, and applied for several jobs around the valley.

The kicker came the day that I returned to work. A district administrator came to see me first thing in the morning and told me in no uncertain terms that the interviews and "investigation" did not yield ANY results that warranted discipline. Let me say that again - there wasn't anything in the investigation that HE conducted that warranted discipline. Then, a few days later I was visited by another administrator. He went on to tell me that the relationship between my principal and I was too toxic for us to continue in the same building. So, after 9 years at ZMS, I was told that I would be moved to a position at the elementary school. That sealed the deal for me. I was done with Zillah.

I have given 12 years to the Zillah School District and I intended to give my entire career to the students in Zillah. In nine short months, all of that was undone by one human. The saddest part is that I am not the only teacher at ZMS who has been put in this position, who has had to contact the union, who has considered leaving the district, who has felt isolated and unappreciated. I am one of several. In conversations with educators and administrators from other districts in the valley who have worked with this person, I am one of many. Prior to my resignation, I was told that I wasn't to share my story. Now that I am no longer a ZSD employee, I am exercising my right to free speech and I am sharing my story. I believe that I was treated unfairly and I believe that my reputation in Zillah speaks for itself. I know the truth about the situation and I know that truth about what went on in our building. I may not have been allowed to share it before, but I am choosing to share it now. I don't believe that silence solves anything.

It hasn't only been my career that has been impacted. This all came to a head as we were in the process of moving to Zillah. My commute has literally been flipped around. My kids will be in Zillah this year since we are living here but next year they will be moved to Selah. This has impacted every aspect of my life.

The saddest part of all of this and the actual point of this incredibly long post is that this entire year has made me question every part of myself. After I got the call from the principal in Selah, who expressed how excited he was to bring me on board, I realized how much my perception of myself had changed this year. I have always struggled with self-esteem but this year has been horrendous. I have questioned my ability as a teacher, as a wife, as a mom, and as a friend. I have doubted myself in every regard and I am so angry about it. I have lost an entire year of my life. I have lost a year of my kids' lives. I have been so depressed and full of self-loathing that I haven't been the wife or parent that I was designed to be. I will never get to go back and relive this time in my kids' lives, I can't go back and be more present in my marriage. I can't undo the poor decisions I made in regard to my health and wellness. I have lost an entire year to negativity, anger, doubt, fear, and hate. I am trying to find a healthy way to process that anger and harness it into being a better wife, a better mom, and a better human in general - but it is hard. I can choose to let it fester or I can write it out, share it, and move on with my life. I choose the latter.

I have a new chapter beginning - a new school, a new community, and new opportunities. I am excited and I am optimistic. I feel like in the weeks since I walked out of the middle school for the last time, I have started to see pieces of the real me again. I have started working out, playing with my kids, and being a human who participates in life again. This post is the endcap of a part of my life - it is the final lines in a dark chapter and I am so ready to turn the page. I am so grateful for the experiences and relationships that have been a result of my time in Zillah. The community has been awesome and supportive and I have taught some of the most amazing students and have watched them grow into kind, compassionate, successful adults. I value those memories and relationships more than I can express and they have shaped me into the teacher and human that I am today.

Thank you Zillah. I will love you always. <3 p="">
Selah... let's do this.

Image result for a new chapter begins

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The fringe...

My heart is broken.

Image result for broken heartI feel as though I'm grieving even though it's impossible to accurately articulate the range of emotions that I've felt in the past few days. I haven't cried this hard or this much since my dad passed away. I have resisted social media and texts because I don't know how to say what is in my heart without causing pain in my relationships but I also can't continue to feel all of this and not express it somehow.

I grew up as a kid on the fringes. I lived near the "cool kids" and when we were little we all played together. As we got older and started to break into different groups they still would play with me on the weekends and during the summer but when we stepped off the school bus each day I found myself alone. I was never pretty enough, athletic enough, or smart enough to fit in so I spent my adolescence on the fringes. I knew all of the "cool kids" and they knew me but that was the extent of it. I wasn't invited to their parties or included in their groups. Looking back at my high school years, I had exactly two real friends. I attended one of the largest high schools in the state but I had two friends... and one didn't even go to my school. It was painful and it took its toll - depression, rebellion, isolation...

Addison has grown up with a small group of friends - daughters of my friends and co-workers. She has gone through preschool, kindergarten, sports, birthdays with these girls and she adores them. Addison doesn't make friends easily - she's wild and unpredictable, passionate and emotional - and those things tend to frustrate kids her age.

This fall, I started to see things falling apart. She was placed in a different class than the other girls, which was what I thought I wanted. I thought she would make new friends so that she wouldn't be so reliant on the other girls to play with her.

Then she wasn't invited to the birthday of one of the girls. I tried to not let it bother me and I came up with all sorts of reasons in my head why it was okay that she didn't get to go. But it lingered.

Then she heard through the grapevine of 1st graders that one of the girls thought she was 'embarrassing' and 'cooky'. It broke her heart which in turn broke mine.

Then, this weekend, she was not invited to another birthday party. All the other little girls were there.

She doesn't know yet - I didn't have the heart to tell her - but she will find out.

We are 100 days into 1st grade.

     She hasn't been invited to a birthday party.

          She hasn't been invited to a sleepover.

               She hasn't been invited to a play date, a movie... anything.

                    When asked who she plays with the most at recess, she replies, "Myself."

I am a mother of a little girl on the fringe.

When that realization hit me yesterday, it broke me. I went to work in my classroom and I bawled like a baby for hours. Then I got home and tried to explain how I was feeling to Derek... which led to me bawling again.

I don't know how to parent her through this. Some of my dearest friends are the moms of these girls. I love these other girls and I love their moms. But I'm ashamed to admit that I'm resentful and hurt. I know that they aren't deliberately excluding her and that they aren't trying to be cruel but it doesn't change the fact that it hurts her and that it hurts me.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Digital Invasion Book Review

I've wanted for a long time to find a way to turn my book-obsession into something productive. I've never officially written a book review, so I have no idea how this is going to go... but here's my debut.

I recently read The Digital Invasion by Dr. Archibald D. Hart and Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd. I was driving home one night and listening to an interview on the radio where the author discussed the premise of his book. The authors, a father and daughter team, are a psychology professor and a Christian counselor, respectively. The book looks at the impact that technology is having on our relationships. I am a self-proclaimed social media addict and I felt like there was value in looking at how that is impacting my relationships.

One thing that the authors point out at the start of the book is that we are broken up into two different groups in regards to technology. There are Digital Natives - those born after the advent of digital technology and Digital Immigrants - those born before the advent of digital technology.  The first few chapters instruct readers to critically look at their personal technology habits - texting and driving, checking notifications while spending one-on-one time with a family member or friend, impulses to play online games, and the need to post about every minute of our lives (I am SO guilty on that last one). Next the authors explain the different brain systems (pleasure, tranquility, memory, learning, attachment, spiritual) and how the overuse of technology is impacting each of these areas.

While the first three chapters were enlightening and set the stage for what was to come in the rest of the book. Once I hit chapter 4, the dog-earring began. Chapter 4 discusses the myth of multitasking. I have always prided myself on being able to multi-task. Being a mom and a teacher, it's probably one of the "skills" I utilize the most. It's awesome to be able to help with homework, answer emails, cook dinner, and listen to the TV at the same time. Sort of. The authors cite research done at Harvard and Stanford that show that when their brightest students were given either sequential task or multi-tasking projects, "they found that ALL the students' performance were reduced about one-third when multi-tasking. What is also notable about this study is that ALL students reported that they thought they were actually doing better when multi-tasking than when sequential tasking" (Hart, 81). Another interesting point in chapter 4 is the  mention of multi-tasking and the "attention deficit trait". Multi-tasking may actually be a factor in the rise in ADHD diagnoses in youth today. Since youth who have access to digital technology around the clock are constantly jumping back and forth between games, texting, videos, and social media. They are doing all of this while working on homework and listening to music. The problem is that when the brain is asked to jump back and forth between stimuli without ever deeply focusing on a task, we train our brain NOT to focus and think deeply about something. The idea is that by allowing kids the access we are currently giving them to digital media, we are allowing them to wire their brains to be incapable of deep though and analysis. As a teacher, this is terrifying. Students NEED to be critical thinkers who are able to reflect and form their own opinions and beliefs.

In chapter 5, the focus shifts to the impact that social media and technology has on personal relationships. As Hart states,

"Technology can help us connect with extended family but it also disconnects us from our most intimate relationships. We turn to technology to for connections we can control, like texting, tweeting, emailing, and posting. These allow us to edit, delete, and retouch what we say and how we look. Real conversations are hard work, messy, challenging, unpredictable, and time consuming, but they are worth it."

The authors go on to analyze the way the our technology use impedes our relationships and leads to
disconnected people living in their own isolated worlds. Digital tech is an incredibly important part of our lives but we need to be aware of how it impacts our relationships and our brains. I would whole-heatedly recommend this book to parents and teachers alike. We are just starting to scratch the surface of the impact of digital technology and it is important that we are educated consumers.

Friday, January 20, 2017

My (anti)Inauguration Speech

It's Inauguration Day. A few weeks back I made a self-promise not to post political ideas or beliefs, especially on Facebook and I have since broken that promise several times. I hadn't intended to blog about it at all until my husband made an innocent statement while getting ready this morning. I told him that I was wearing black today to protest Trump's inauguration and he said, "I think that we owe it to him to give him a chance - it's not like we can change anything."


I adore my husband and I know he had no deeper agenda than believing that this man that our government, not our people, elected deserves a fair shot. I think that's a bit idealistic since Trump had the past year to woo America and to win over the different groups who have opposed him. I haven't really seen him make that effort unless belligerent statements count and effort. I know I'm not alone. As of yesterday, somewhere around 60% of Americans are of the same mindset as I am. We're in big trouble and we just elected a bully with horrible manners and questionable morals to be our leader. I've been asked several times on Facebook to defend my beliefs but since I'm almost always on my phone when I check it and am HORRIBLE at typing on my phone, I thought I would respond here - with a full size keyboard.

Why do I refuse to embrace the idea of "giving Trump a chance"?

I am a mom.

I have been charged with raising two tiny humans who are acutely aware of what is going on around them. My job is to raise them to be kind, compassionate, forgiving, and tolerant. We now have a president that I would NEVER allow my children to watch speak (given their ages). I would not tolerate my children to use the kind of comments and behavior that he is admired for. If my children mocked someone with a disability the lesson would be learned and reparations made. If my son made sexist comments about a girl in the way Trump has mocked women, the punishment would be swift and an example would be made. Trump demonstrates the range of behavior that I will not tolerate in my children - and certainly on in my President.

I am a woman.

When the announcement of Trump's victory came in November I awoke for the first time with a snippet of the fear and uncertainty that is commonplace for minorities in our country. I was scared. We elected a man who has made his opinion on women clear many times. I was raped when I was a teenager. It was traumatic and shameful and it took me a long time to be able to look my family in the face and discuss it. Our society already shames women who are victims of sexual assault.
     "Are you sure you said no?"
             "Were you wearing something suggestive?"
                     "Were you drinking?"
Trump has be accused of sexual assault by more than 15 women. I know that allegations have not been proven by my point is this - we have elected a man who is coming into office with multiple women alleging abuse.

I was fortunate that I didn't have to deal with the added pain of a pregnancy as a result of rape. But if I had, I think that, given my age, I would have had an abortion. Becoming a mom has changed my views on abortion dramatically and now I know that I could never terminate a pregnancy. The point here is that is MY belief and MY choice. I would never want to impose that onto someone else. It is covered by the 14th amendment. Cutting funding to organizations such as Planned Parenthood means that women who have limited access to health care will no longer have access to birth control or other women's health services.

I am a Christian.

I am a Christian. I believe in the teaching of Jesus and the Bible. Jesus' teaching promoted agape love, patience, and kindness. He taught that we are to love one another and care for 'least of these'. He was humble, forgiving, compassionate, loving, and patient. How can I support a man that is the literal opposite of all of these things? It's simple for me - I can't. I cannot reconcile the hate that spews from his mouth with the love that we know to be Jesus.

I am so thankful that I know who wins in the end.

I am a teacher.

I teach in rural Eastern Washington. We are an agricultural region that relies on migrant workers in the fields and I am fortunate to teach the children of some of these families. I know that some of the families in our community are here illegally. I also know that if Trump were to deport those living here illegally that families in our community would be ripped apart. I want my students to have every opportunity to better their lives and that means getting an education and having the opportunity to attend college. These families are here - help them acquire legal status. Treat them like humans.

I won't even go into Betsy DeVos in this post... but I have A LOT to say about her as well.

I am a human.

I believe that all people should be free from oppression, poverty, and violence. I watch Trump openly express an "Us versus Them" mentality that automatically pits religion against religion and nationality against nationality. I watch him describe his mighty wall and proclaim how he plans to shut down borders to keep "them" out. What happens after that, to the "them" that are left here? How will they be treated or mistreated?

Donald Trump stands for all the things I stand against.

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